(A chapter of Akayama DanJay.)
Last time on RuRu no Jikuu-Kasoku!
The Galaxy Zephyr’s Uzumaki Armor turned purple as Commander Lucille reclaimed the Hurricane’s thumb and other scraps for the sake of all life in the universe. The Galaxy Zephyr’s super-stellar weapon is the Wheel of life and death which spins to regenerate the principle components of Earth’s lost population.
When the Hurricane enclosed them in a bubble, Lucille told Professor Akayama she would pull the Wheel’s Chain and collect a batch of worms. Can this new Zephyr help her crew of ten thousand survive their escape to continue the fight?
“Our new Zephyr is incoming,” announced Akayama. “Get ready to pull the Chain!” She branched her noodly tail and plugged the free end into ZAP’s control-panel. Through it she shared the image of her Uzumaki Planet inside the Wheel, a desert of rust-red dunes where worms fell from the mustard-yellow sky. Nakayama, her bird-like counterpart, sailed on a column of steam toward the new Zephyr, which drifted with a hundred golden wings. “The main-cast of our slice-of-life is a classic group of twenty-somethings near the turn of the millennium.”
Lucille noticed her own confusion reflected in the faces of Charlie, Dakshi, Eisu, and Fumiko. She pinged her crew of ten thousand on a touchscreen, and their consensus was an emoji of bewilderment. “What are we looking at here, Professor Bird-Thing? You said you were collecting worms. Not that I’m not glad to see something feathery like you.”
“Sentient beings share most of their worms, just like biological organisms share most of their genes,” said Akayama. “The first human’s-worth of worms naturally accounts for a majority of the worms in total. The ongoing simulated mortals won’t notice, but most of their worms are being collected all at once!” Nakayama’s blue tentacles ensnared the golden Zephyr and slung it through the sky toward the red mountain. The mountain’s summit crumbled into a caldera, caught the Zephyr, and dragged it into the deep. “That’s why I picked this primary vessel who can quickly understand and accept their new role. Pull the Chain and they’ll be integrated into the Galaxy Zephyr!”
“About time!” Lucille gave Charlie and Dakshi a thumbs-up. The Galaxy Zephyr pulled the Chain and the Wheel spun so quickly centripetal forces made its saw-teeth lengthen by light-years. Lucille didn’t let herself get caught up in her crew’s excitement, instead glaring defiantly at the Hurricane enclosing them all like a bubble. “Will our controls be more responsive, having another mind aboard?”
“Many more minds, depending on how you count them. Worms are molded by interactions over countless generations, so innumerable minds are reflected in this Zephyr—I estimate 77% of the variation in Earth’s life can be expressed as linear-combinations of this Zephyr’s components. In that sense, the Galaxy Zephyr now has a crew of billions.”
“They’d better be self-starters, ’cause I’m not gonna micromanage ’em!” Lucille watched golden light flow from the green Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s purple Uzumaki Armor. “Is that them?”
Lucille’s crew of ten thousand gasped when the golden light flooded over them. Lucille didn’t know why they gasped until the golden light reached her in ZAB: it carried bathing warmth like a hot-spring. The purple Uzumaki Armor relaxed to subdued silvery-blue. “Don’t get too comfortable,” said Lucille. “We’re still in trouble!” The Hurricane’s bubble contracted around them. As their prison shrank, its walls thickened. “Charlie, Dakshi, Eisu, Fumiko, report!”
When Dakshi pressed buttons, the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand twitched almost instantly. “Significant improvement to extremity responsiveness,” said Dakshi. The twins concurred, wiggling the Galaxy Zephyr’s toes.
Charlie blinked in the harsh golden light. Sweat soaked his eye-patch. “The new guy’s a little bright. It’s a sauna in here! Can we turn ’em down a tad?” Thousands of Lucille’s crew signaled agreement with Charlie on their touchscreen monitors.
“Jya, Professor Bird-Thing,” said Lucille, “does our new Zephyr have a thermostat?”
Akayama typed on ZAP’s control-panel. “I have just the idea.”
Golden light collected on either side of the Galaxy Zephyr’s spine. Sixteen golden wings erupted with a blare of Gnostic archons’ trumpets, each wing longer than the Galaxy Zephyr was tall, every feather a jet-engine. The warmth subsided, and Lucille chuckled. “Not a bad look.” She flipped her hair back, and the Galaxy Zephyr grew a silvery-blue ponytail like that of her late mother, Princess Lucia. “Charlie, Dakshi, Eisu, Fumiko, each of your teams will take the four nearest wings. Learn your controls!”
Eisu directed the flapping of wings from right glute to mid-back. “How will this help us, exactly?”
Dakshi bade the wings from mid-back to left shoulder to bend in sequence. “We’re still not big enough to cut out of this bubble.”
“We don’t need to be big,” said Lucille. “We’ve got sixteen wings made entirely of jet-turbines. We’ve gotta be fast enough to slice right through!”
“I hope you’re right,” said Fumiko. The Hurricane closed in. Its red surface taunted them with jeering eyes and mouths and tentacles.
“On your order, Commander!” said Charlie.
“Go! No turning back!”
The Galaxy Zephyr fired all cylinders, swiftly accelerated by its new wings. They flew for the ceiling of their confinement, where tentacles had no time to react before the Wheel sliced them off and dug into the Hurricane’s flesh. Deeper and deeper dove the Galaxy Zephyr, the wound bleeding giant teeth all around. “What the hell!” shouted Charlie. The teeth crunched each other into sharp shards which shanked their silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor deep enough to endanger the tiny Zephyr robots hidden within. “Aaaugh, that screech!” He piloted with his pedals, freeing his hands to cover his ears. “These teeth!”
Dakshi didn’t have the luxury of piloting with his pedals. Instead he committed his four wings to shielding the Galaxy Zephyr from teeth, and their screeching abated. “Eisu, Fumiko, daijoubu?“
“No teeth down here!” Fumiko redirected spare power from Dakshi’s wings to her own.
Eisu did the same as Charlie moved his wings into protective position. “Maximum thrust!”
“Ora!” Lucille had to shout over the teeth, because the wings didn’t stop them from screeching all around her in the Galaxy Zephyr’s head. “We’ve almost bust out!”
“I don’t think so,” ZAB said to Lucille on a private audio-channel. “There’s no telling how thick the Hurric—“
“Ora ora!” Lucille ignored her robotic partner for the sake of morale. “Just a little more!”
The Hurricane squealed at the penetrating pain. When it grasped with tentacles, the Galaxy Zephyr’s legs were free to kick them away because the wings took the role of propulsion. Eyeballs appeared around the Galaxy Zephyr, signalling babble. “Disable your monitors!” said Akayama. “I’ve seen this before!” The Hurricane was trying to jump into the crew the same way Uzumaki had jumped into her. When monitors were switched off, the Hurricane had no such opening. Instead, the Galaxy Zephyr’s silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor rebutted the eyeballs with its own.
“Why are you helping them?” signalled the Hurricane. “This is pure agony!”
“Because you’re trying to kill me,” signalled Uzumaki, “if not worse! Whatever pain you’re feeling, it’s coming from me, and I know we deserve it!”
After inexpressible duration, the Galaxy Zephyr burst through the bubble. “Oraaaugh!” They pulled tooth-shards from the silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor and let the wounds flood with gold.
Behind them, the Hurricane’s bubble deflated. The fistula they’d burst through flooded with teeth and shouted like an awful maw, audible through space-vacuum because of steam from the Galaxy Zephyr’s wings. “Look at the anguish you’re causing! I’m the human race, and you useless thugs are torturing me!”
“Pfa!” Lucille beamed so broadly Dakshi worried blood would drip from the corners of her smile. “Don’t fish for sympathy! This Wheel is reconstructing every aspect of Earth’s life, even whatever wretched bits made you what you are today! That’s all the mercy you’ll get from us! The only human who could possibly pity you in your present state was my mother, Earth’s shining princess, who died protecting us from you!” At the mention of Princess Lucia, the Galaxy Zephyr’s whole crew of ten thousand regained their grit from the grueling task of burrowing through the bubble. “You discarded your humanity when you decided it was beneath you! We’re reclaiming it, for our own sake and yours!”
“Aaaugh! I’ll show you humanity!” The Hurricane’s teeth bit each other and its own red flesh. The wounds produced so many more teeth that they ground each other up in a static ball.
“Prepare for electrical discharge!” shouted Akayama. A thunderbolt cracked from the Hurricane. The Galaxy Zephyr was too close to dodge. They blocked lightning with the Wheel, which warped.
“You self-destructive bastard!” Lucille surveyed the warp in her Wheel. “We’ll save you from yourself whether you like it or not!”
In the Wheel’s green haze, Nakayama narrowly avoided the thunderbolt. “Konoyarou! The Hurricane’s really done it this time!”
“What? What did it do?” asked Uzumaki.
“The Wheel’s warp puts worm-processing at an impasse.” Her left compound emerald eye saw a sandstorm plow through the Uzumaki Planet’s rust-red desert. “The main-cast of our slice-of-life took a direct hit, too, because my snowy white powder acted as a lightning-rod.” Her right compound emerald eye watched a bolt zap her water-world. “Although…”
“Maybe I can use one problem to solve the other.”